Sonoran Seasonal #4
Highlights from the Tucson Phenology Trail

'Tis the holiday season! This year we are thankful for all of the friends we've made while out making phenology observations in our community. Thanks to all of our Partners and volunteers who are helping us to create a year-round, long-term database that we can share with reserchers, program managers, educators, and ecological systems staff to better understand seasonal changes in our unique ecosystem. 

As the year winds down, consider joining us at a site on the Tucson Phenology Trail that you have not yet visited. We'll be hosting a Nature's Notebook refresher at the Mission Gardens on December 10th at 10am. Let me know if you'd like to attend and I can give you more details. Email me at 

In the meantime, season's greetings and ... Happy observing!

LoriAnne Barnett
Education Coordinator & Local Phenology Leader, USA-NPN

Trail Tales

Welcome, Tucson's Mission Garden!

The Friends of Tucson's Birthplace Mission Garden Project has teamed up with the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) and Nature’s Notebook to share with their growing number of volunteers, docents and visitors the importance of recognizing phenological changes in their fruit tree orchard and native plant garden.

We have established two monitoring locations within the garden walls - one in the native desert garden on the west side of the Mission Garden, and a second in the fruit tree orchard. For maps that include locations of the plants marked for observation, visit the Tucson Phenology Trail landing page. You can join the Tucson Mission Garden shared site in Nature's Notebook to participate. When you create a new Nature's Notebook account, find the Partner Group for TUCSON MISSION GARDEN, or if you've already created an account online, click on the link to Edit your Account Details link on the right side of your Observation Deck. Learn more about community collaborations  at the Mission Garden Project.  


Inspiring Observations           

Fremont Cottonwood

(Populus fremontii)

Photo credit: Jenny Moscato
Location: Tucson's Mission Garden
Date: 11/16/2016

Populus fremontii leaves change from green to a yellow/gold color in Tucson during the fall and winter. 

Submit your seasonal photos to us! Send your favorite photo with a date and caption to We will share them here and on our Phenophase Photo Flickr Page! You can also post your photos to our Tucson Phenology Trail Facebook Group or Instagram page. Use #TucsonPhenologyTrail and #phenology!

The Big Picture

What are your data telling us, locally?

Our Outreach Assistant and Peace Corps Fellow Jenny Moscato has been observing the deciduous trees in Tucson because she loves seeing the leaves changing to their fall colors as the weather cools down. During a recent visit to Tucson's Mission Gardens she noticed the two Fremont cottonwoods that Nature's Notebook has marked for observation are not yet showing signs of changing color, despite Tucson experiencing a handful of evenings with relatively cooler temperatures this fall. She started wondering when the leaves of other Fremont cottonwoods around Tucson had changed in past years. Luckily, the Nature's Notebook website has a Visualization Tool ( to help her find and illustrate this information!

ccording to our local citizen scientists' data collected in 2015 and 2016 there may have been a slight shift in when Fremont cottonwoods' leaves are changing and falling between those two years. However, because we do not have consistent data collected throughout the entire year, we can't make any specific conclusions about the timing of the fall color.

Take a look below at the Phenology Calendar Jenny made by aggregating ALL Fremont cottonwoods being observed in Tucson. The colored lines display when someone has reported a YES observation to leaves, colored leaves, and falling leaves in both 2015 and 2016. Grey lines indicate when someone had reported a NO to those phenophases. While it looks like colored leaves may have been reported earlier in 2016, we cannot make that conclusion because we can see that there are not year round observations reported- if there were, we'd see grey lines throughout the summer as well. To better understand when colored leaves appear, we'd need to have consistent reports of YESs and NOs throughout the year so that we could determine if, in fact, fall color was happening earlier or later in the year. 

You can help us by regularly visiting your favorite cottonwood tree in Tucson and making observations throughout the entire year. That way if we look back next year, we can have a better idea of when leaves begin to change, and Jenny can tell if the cottonwoods at the Mission Garden are truly late to turn. 

If you want to know the variations of your favorite plants in Tucson, check out the tutorials available for the Visualization Tool. It's a great resource and an easy way to track how plants are changing from year to year.
Fremont Cottonwood Leaves

Upcoming Events

December 10th, 2016

Nature's Notebook Refresher Workshop
Join us to learn the nuts and bolts of monitoring phenology using Nature's Notebook! This 2-hour workshop will be perfect for first-time participants looking for a place to observe or those who need a refresher. We will meet at Tucson's Mission Garden at 9:45 am. Email to let her know you are interested. 10AM-NOON. 

January 23rd, 2017 

Monthly "Coffee Walk" at the UA Campus Arboretum 

Join us on the fourth Monday of every month, from 9am - 10am, for a "Coffee Walk" and phenology lecture at the UA Campus Arboretum's Joseph Wood Krutch Garden. We will meet by the Cat Statue, learn about phenology and collect observations for the Nature's Notebook Citizen Science Program. FREE, locally sourced coffee from EXO Roast Co. will be provided! Just bring a mug and an interest in learning about what is blooming and which critters are visiting this month in the garden. Email to RSVP.

Stay tuned for more information about dates and times and other events we will host! Take a look at our Tucson Phenology Trail Google Calendar for more info.

Copyright © 2016 USA National Phenology Network, All rights reserved.

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